What is Hermeneutics definition and Schleiermacher hermeneutics


Hermeneutics is a word of Greek origin and means the art or technique of interpreting and explaining a text or discourse.

Its original meaning was related to the Bible, and in this case it consisted of understanding the Scriptures, to understand the meaning of God’s words. Hermeneutics is also present in philosophy and in the legal area, each with its own meaning.

According to philosophy, hermeneutics addresses two aspects: the epistemological , with the interpretation of texts and the ontological , which refers to the interpretation of a reality.

Etymologically, the word is related to the Greek god Hermes, who was one of the gods of oratory.

Biblical Hermeneutics

It is the art of studying the scriptures, what every word, phrase and chapter means.

There are many texts in the Bible that are difficult to understand, so hermeneutics is essential for people who do not have much knowledge of words and symbols.

In Philosophy

In philosophy, it is the science that studies the art and theory of interpretation, and it emerged in Ancient Greece. Hermeneutics studies diverse subjects in diverse areas, such as literature, religion, and law.

In philosophy, hermeneutics is grounded by Hans-Georg Gadamer, who wrote a book on how to coherently explain and analyze texts using special methods. For Gadamer, it is a way of understanding the spiritual sciences and history through an interpretation of tradition.

Legal Hermeneutics

In the legal area, hermeneutics is the science that created the rules and methods for the interpretation of legal norms, making them known with their exact meaning and expected by the bodies that created them.

Every legal norm must be applied due to the whole of the current legal system, and does not depend on the interpretation of each one, it must be linked to the legal commandments of a society.

Hermeneutic circle

This concept consists of: “The parts can only be understood when we understand the whole. However, the whole can only be understood from the understanding of the parts”, with this the hermeneutic circle exposes that the interpreter must visit and revisit the work he intends to interpret, establishing a variation of connections between the parts and the whole, however vigilance is essential and caution so that the hermeneutic circle does not imprison the interpreter in an endless spiral, making a correct understanding impossible.

Friedrich Schleiermacher (1768–1834), German religious, a reference in the ambience of hermeneutics, as he argued that this study should have a connotation of universal scope that would serve as a basis for other disciplines such as biblical hermeneutics and legal hermeneutics.

He assured that this was a study that was formatted as “the art of interpretation”, emphasizing that it was not simply about something creative or subjective, but as a technique that enabled a correct interpretation.

Purpose of Schleiermacher hermeneutics

Schleiermacher asserted that the purpose of hermeneutics was to understand the text, such as the author, and then understand better than him.

To reach this level he suggested two paths; the first would be to seek to understand the author’s language, that is, the way in which the author communicated through his expressions regarding the grammatical side. The second path involved how the author thought in the context of his culture and time, that is, the psychological side.

With this, it is understood that Schleiermacher breaks the hermeneutic circle by stating that first the grammatical interpretation is carried out and then the psychological interpretation is carried out, that is, first to analyze the parts, and then to analyze the whole, leaving the infinite spiral of interpretations .

The methods of Schleiermacher interpretation and what is Hermeneutics

Methods of Interpretation Schleiermacher posits about two methods for achieving interpretation. He called the first method divinatory, which corresponds to when we interpret something using our understanding of the world and human beings.

The second method is the comparative. It is when the author’s work is compared with other authors of his time and with similar genres, but it is fundamental in any of the methods, to know the language, to seek a minimum knowledge of the author, of the sociocultural influences of his time, to identify for whom he is directed the message, that is, who would be the audience.

All this to apply the methodology with quality. Difference between Hermeneutics and exegesis For a better understanding, let’s draw a parallel between the two concepts.


It is an explanation based on a critical interpretation through a commentary or dissertation on the meaning of words, grammatical constructions, as well as the sociocultural conditions of the time, meaning, symbology and representations of the analyzed text.


Hermeneutics: in the simplicity of its context, it is understood as the art of interpretation having ways of looking at the philosophical, legal, cultural, historical, theological, sociological context, as well as other aspects of knowledge.

Hermeneutics as a science

Hermeneutics as a science and some dogmatic positions In addition to being a technique, hermeneutics is a science according to Wilhelm Dilthay (1833-1911), a German theologian, he conceived hermeneutics as the science of interpretation, where, in order to support his point of view, he developed the “understanding theory” that contextualized the following; “Hermeneutics is rule-oriented understanding of language, and thus is a science, the science of interpretation.”

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For Jurgen Haberman (1929), German philosopher and sociologist, he postulated that a hermeneutics cannot be applied to everything because people, in their subjectivities, have different experiences. He defended the introduction of the critical method so that hermeneutics would not be taken over by relativism.

Jacques Derrida (1930-2004), Algerian philosopher, for him there is no truth, but innumerable perspectives, therefore hermeneutics must be deconstructive, considering innumerable interpretations for the same text, which may go against the text’s thesis itself. Hans-Georg Gadamer (1900-2002), German philosopher, stated that the proposal of hermeneutics is to unveil the truth contained in the text and connect it to life, in this way the meaning of a certain text should be applied in a current reality without ignoring the meaning in his time. Thus, the interpreter lets the text speak within a new scenario.

contemporary hermeneutics

Contemporary hermeneutics is not limited to the application of text interpretation, but all forms of comprehensible content, which includes verbal and non-verbal forms in terms of research to arrive at interpretation.

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